31 luglio 2009
Political issues of the representation of speech acts in Renaissance theatre. [De spectaculis, II]
At his fall, Satan instituted a counterfeit kingdom to parallel Godâs kingdom and challenge His authority. Satan is a usurper, claiming kingship and seeking the exercise of his authority over an earthly kingdom. 
In the philosophical fable “The End of the Kingdom” (in Altri Crocevia, 1969), the Italian writer Elia Spallanzani develops a fascinating metaphor about the relationship between theatre and power. The story is about an evil tyrant, oppressing his kingdom with unfair laws. The king was excited by his own cruelty, but what he loved most of all was the theatre. He used to spend all his time watching performances, and didn’t care about the real world. One day the senators came to him asking to close the playhouses, which were a great source of confusion for the enforcement of the law. An actor promised himself in marriage to an actress, as written in the play, and then the woman asked to be married in real life. Another one had to be beheaded because he was interpreting the role of the king on the stage, and so had broken the law on usurpation. The laws of the kingdom were so strict that for every play, at least one actor had to be condemned for his words, his acts, his costumes: so, in short there would be no more actors. The king laughed. The solution, he thought, was easy: “Just make a law saying that no law of the kingdom is to be applied on what happens on a stage”. The law was enacted, and the king came back to his delights. The next morning, he was awaken by sounds and music coming from outside, as if there was a feast â which was, in fact, illegal. He looked out of the window: the kingdom was different, but he didn’t understand what had happened. So he went out of the palace, as he never did. He gave the order to stop the confusion, but no one listened to him. Then he saw, and what he saw was incredible: all the kingdom had been raised. It had only taken a night for building up a stage over all the kingdom, and there was no law any longer. The king kept giving orders, but no one was paying attention to him.
We can draw a morality from this story: that theatre is a kind of gap in reality, enforcing legal exception. And because of its exceptionality, theatre is a circumscribed land of freedom: thus, to widen the boundaries of representation is to reduce the space of authority. Here will follow an enquiry into the relationship between authority and theatre, from the point of view of authority and its measures against theatre, and from the point of view of theatre and its tackling of authority. These two segments intersect in a paradoxical kind of performances, in which the simulated act can be indistinguishable from the act really perpetrated. Usually we intend a representation as an event simulating another event, without being the same event. But this isnât true for linguistic expressions. “Performing an utterance” might mean either that weâre just speaking, or that weâre acting: anyway, we produced the same sound. Moreover, utterances may be acts, namely speech acts: “verbal actions happening into the world”. As they are actions, speech acts display the necessity to be subjected to the law. Leggere il seguito »